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I think that claim is clearly false, as it seems you now admit.

Ok, I think I've seen enough internet arguments to know where this is going. Getting your opponent to "admit" stuff, old yet familiar tactics. Thank you for making me realize my error, and taking the decision off of me.

Goodbye LW, it's been fun but we'll both be better off without one another.

And then what? Incite outrage on social media? Protest at the UN? It's important to remind ourselves from time to time that beyond the social reality, there is also a physical reality where if the oil stops flowing, it stops flowing.

Well, it's too early to tell, but things are getting serious in China. I doubt it will affect Chinese military capability, but it's definitely "differentially between blocs".

Here is a more relevant critique of your position: Notice however that the issue here is per capita income. The relevant metric for wartime capability is a nation's total productive capacity. Total productive capacity of a nation does increase with population and we can prove this with a simple thought experiment.

Point taken. Here is the problem with this argument: labor isn't the only input to productive capacity, and China's population is far passed the point where labor is the bottleneck. If China can't get enough oil, gas and other resources to fuel its industry and feed its people, it won't matter how many workers it has.

New babies are not born with a ticket that entitles them to a percent share of world GDP or land or iron ore. In practice they get a lot of support from their parents if they are to survive, but that's not really relevant for the purposes of this thought experiment because we can imagine them now at 18 years old and kicked out of the house with no money. Since on average these new people are still able to sell their labor on the market for more than it takes for them to survive, we can assume that they are contributing to China's economic size.

If you're going to use GDP as a proxy for power, well, I regret to tell you that China was by far the largest economy in the world in 1840 when they got their ass kicked by the British, and again in 1860. They lost to Japan in 1894 despite having 5 times the GDP.

No, most of those resources would remain unavailable to you. This is an important distinction. You wouldn't even "own" any of those resources because you wouldn't have the manpower to actually dig them out of the ground or capture them. You would not be able to get any of the sunlight by building solar panels, or extract the coil and oil from the ground. The only resource you'd instantly "own" in a trivial sense would be the stuff that you could walk to and find some way to pick up, like the land in a certain radius around wherever you were.

When you imagine this scenario, I want to make sure you're not imagining a scenario where everybody in the world disappears, as that's not an analogous example. The actual world is filled with secondary goods that people built, not just premined coal and oil. The default one person world in your mind's eye should be Eliezer Yudkowsky transported to 10,000 B.C.E.

That... is what I said with "you can't run a modern economy all by yourself"? Are you just arguing for the sake of arguing?

This seems like an arbitrary number and I don't think you actually have any mechanical reason to believe this is the case. I would like to know what you believe are the hard limits on, for example, food production and city planning. Why wouldn't we be able to just scale up the solutions we already have?

Correct, it is an arbitrary number. If you're not convinced that a world with 200 billion people and our current tech level is horrible to live in, take 2 trillion instead. The whole point is to dial the number to the extreme end of things, why bicker about this detail? The reason we can't just scale up current food production solutions, i.e. farmland, is because half the habitable land on Earth is already used for that purpose.

You just state this is "what you believe" and don't explain why you believe it.  There are plenty of obscenely rich people in Silicon Valley today who would not win a positional game on business leadership in a million years but got lucky picking a correct idea. And if your society mints 50% less entrepreneurs or engineers, you have 50% less opportunities for one of them to spend the trivial amount of resources coding and deploying a test version of Google. The faster the microchip/the microwave/the radio/etc. is developed the faster spinoff technologies can be developed and the more information the rest of the nation has on the search space for new tech.

I believe what I wrote because what you theorized has not come true in China or elsewhere. Shockingly little technological progress has happened in the last 20 years despite record levels of university graduates all around, this fact has merely been obfuscated by catch-up growth in China and other developing countries - a growth model that I predict can't be copied any more by e.g. India.

I'm at a loss as to how this is supposed to follow. Do you think globalization causes poorer countries to increase in population and thus use up more global resources? 

No, quite the opposite. Globalization reduces population by making poorer countries wealthier, which is good both directly and indirectly.

But then this goes back to the fallacy that new people come with a share of world per capita income. The Chinese aren't using up land Americans owned before they started trading with them.

They can compete for limited resources with their labor and thereby acquire a share of world per capita income.

War isn't an RTS game, especially modern war. What do you expect the potentially 100 million strong Chinese army to do? Charge into Vietnam? Swim to the Strait of Malacca? China has always been the world's most populous nation yet that did nothing to change the fact that it basically lost every single war from 1840 - 1945. Or for that matter, look at how China was frequently raided and sometimes even conquered in its ancient history by numerically vastly inferior nomadic tribes.

If the US tried to blockade China from transporting food from, say, Africa, China would use its naval escorts to put the USA in the position of “fight or get out of the way.”

Against the US Navy? In the Indian Ocean? Good luck.

It seems like you're treating conventional forces - nay, any strategic asset at all including sanctions and blockades - as pure deterrence, and therefore we're out of luck as soon as our adversaries calls the bluff. That's not how any of this works.

Meanwhile, the USA would be viewed as using their military to attempt to enforce the starvation of 1.5 billion people. That seems unlikely to fly in America, unless China’s behavior was widely viewed as being on par with the Nazis or North Korea.

It flew in 1940 against Imperial Japan, and it flew again in 2022 against Russia. We're not talking about sanctioning China out of the blue here, but as a retaliatory measure against an invasion of Taiwan. In this context China absolutely is on par with Imperial Japan.

Along with low unemployment, the US is also facing high prices for all sorts of goods. This is the basic tradeoff predicted by the collapse of globalization, and the principle of comparative advantage says that limiting trade is fundamentally net negative-sum. The US decision to pursue a trade war with China is controversial among economists.

Your argument only works under the naive assumption that rules are absolute and unbreakable, which is approximately true within functioning states with state monopoly on violence, but falls short in the context of international politics. When your intellectual property gets stolen or your capital gets stuck in China, what authority are you going to appeal to?

Unless the crew takes up arms, I don't see why boarding blockade runners involves violence. Armed resistance is just plain stupid from the perspective of the crew as there is no hope of winning.

It seems really obvious to me that this is the kind of measure that would be perceived as a clear escalation? It doesn't really matter whether you're sinking the ships or just blockading them; if you're actively making moves to prevent unaffiliated vessels from other countries from navigating international waters, that seems like a pretty central example of "aggressive military action", and would almost certainly invite retaliation in kind. Given that, is there some interpretation of this quote that isn't as insane as it sounds?

It seems like Russian and Chinese psyops have really managed to subvert the narrative here in the West. Suddenly, economic sanctions and blockades are seen as "escalation", "aggressive military action" and "insane". But blatantly invading peaceful countries minding their own business and murdering tens of thousands of people? That's just "defending our security interests", and somehow it's all NATO's fault anyway. The funny thing is you would usually expect this sort of double-standard word games from the dominant power, not from the runner-up. In the end, all the world's military might is worth nothing if one has no spine.

That definitely sounds wrong to me. A cursory look reveals that the top three producers of wheat in the world are China, Russia, and India, in that order; collectively these three countries account for ~40% of the world's wheat, and the trade relations between said three countries have been quite clear for a while now, but have especially crystallized over the last few weeks. China in particular shares land borders with both India and Russia, which minimizes the need for "maritime transportation", especially with Russia's recent forays into the Arctic. As for energy, here are the rankings for oil and natural gas, for which the amount of procurement in non-US-aligned countries is (again) substantial, with Russia once more leading the charge in both categories.

India is also the second largest grain consumer in the world, and is effectively neutral with regard to import/export. India's net grain export amounts to ~400,000 tons, while China imports nearly 10 million tons. That is assuming China's domestic production remains constant, which it most definitely will not because agriculture is a heavily industrialized sector. Oil and gas aren't just for keeping the lights on, they're vital in the production and distribution of food.

That land border between China and India by the way? It's the friggin' Himalayas; the most impassable terrain on the planet. Trade flow through there is utterly negligible. Disputes over that very border is also the root of frosty relationship between the two countries since the 1960's, ironically, which brings me to the next point: Why in the world would India come to China's aid? Aside from Pakistan (which is China's closest ally), China is the rival India is facing on the world stage. If anything, India is more likely to be the one doing the blockade.

Russia doesn't look much better. Sure, there is the Trans-Siberian railway, but it is already running at capacity, and it still is pitiful compared with maritime trade (~1%). There is a good reason why maritime powers have ruled the world for the last 500 years. The oil pipelines going from Siberia to China isn't even connected to the rest of the Russian pipeline network, which why all the recent talks about China supplanting Europe as Russia's main energy customer is nothing but hot air at least in the short term. Thousands of kilometers of pipelines through Siberia isn't built in a day. Looking at the mid term though, it could go either way. Maybe trade ties between China and Russia will deepen, or there could be a regime change pushing Russia towards the West, or Russia may collapse altogether as a nation and descend into internal ethnic conflicts. It's anyone's guess depending how this war with Ukraine goes.

An outcome where Putin no longer has access to the red button.

especially due to the total failure to control Omicron in the main NATO countries

Hold onto that thought and check back in a few months' time.

  1. Absolutely. More mouths to feed.
  2. As I already explained, in the long term the decreasing population is indeed a boon for China, but it takes several generations for this to take effect, and in the mid term they will be struggling with the burden of massive numbers of retirees just as Japan has struggled.
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